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Human Trafficking: Hope begins with you

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The words “human trafficking” conjure images of men in suits, smoking cigars in a dark room and bidding on victims, said Adam Miller, 21st Security Forces Squadron investigator.

The victims wait for a hero to enter the scene and save them, but unfortunately, Miller said the hero seldom comes. However, there is hope and it starts with knowledge.

Human trafficking is not limited to the business of sex, he said. By definition it involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Trafficking humans for these purposes is not just something happening in other places, Miller says it is a serious issue in the United States and even more locally.

“It’s a big problem,” he said. “But through the work of military and civilian law enforcement it is starting to trend downward. We’ve seen the numbers in Colorado Springs start to decline, but it’s still prevalent.”

According to a report from the International Labor Organization it is estimated that in 2014 about 21 million people were victims of human trafficking. Those figures lead to about $150 billion in income for traffickers annually. More recently, in 2016, the Human Trafficking Hotline reported more than 120 human trafficking cases in Colorado and about 400 calls to report such activity. Sex trafficking weighed in as most common with 85 confirmed cases that year.

Being aware of a few things can help identify people who may be victims, Miller said. The biggest thing to watch for, because it is easily observed, is body language.

“They won’t make eye contact, they give short replies and don’t make conversation,” he said. “They might act nervous of fearful.”

Victims of human trafficking are often accompanied by those who victimize them. They are not left alone or have someone who hovers nearby. That person may even cut into any attempts made to converse with victims, said Miller. These people may not know where they are because they are relocated so frequently and might not possess identification documents.

Traffickers do not limit who they take advantage of to any specific type. Miller said they include all ages, races, genders and socio-economic backgrounds. Some may be used in massage parlors, sex businesses and even farm or construction work.

“In Colorado Springs, we see females over the age of 18 used in prostitution and massage parlors that are fronts for other illegal activity,” he said.

The people responsible for human trafficking are similar to “coyotes,” who prey upon those attempting to illegally enter the country.
“In a sense it can be the same kind of thing,” he said. “It is typically gang related or to cartels because of the profit potential.”

Any observed activity believed to be linked to human trafficking should be reported to the 21st SFS Investigations section at 556-7060. Concerns may also be directed to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at by phone at 1 (888) 373-7888, by texting “help” or “info” to 233733 (BeFree), or online at humantraffickinghotline.org.

The Department of Homeland Security operates the Blue Campaign to end human trafficking. To contact them, or for more information, visit www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/ or call 1-866-347-2423.

Members of the Colorado Springs community can be the hero these victims need by reporting suspected trafficking activity. Individual vigilance will give victims a path to freedom as well as a much needed second chance at life.

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